TL:DR: Auckland Transport is proposing upgrades to Glen Eden town centre to make it safer to get around. We love and support the proposed 30kph safer speed limit and traffic calming – but we feel that on other matters, the proposal falls short of what a town centre should be.
Read on, below, for our take on what’s proposed, what’s needed, and what we think would help make Glen Eden a better burb for bikes (and everyone) in the long-term.
And then have your say on the changes proposed in Glen Eden before consultation closes on Sunday 9 September.
(Short on time? scroll down to the end of this blog to see our recommendations, but in a nutshell: support this project, and ask AT to incorporate Bike Auckland’s suggestions for improvement!)
This week, Auckland Transport presented a road safety report to Auckland Council, acknowledging the crisis on our streets and seeking a partnership to address it. (You can watch the video from 2:08 onwards, or see the slides here: Road Safety item AC Planning Committee 4 September 2018).
It was a robust meeting, captured in reports by Radio NZ and Simon Wilson in the Herald. Many of the councillors wanted more done, and sooner, to make streets safer in their areas; they asked if AT was up for working with the community to catch up with overdue safety requests. There is, to put it bluntly, a lot of catching up to do.
The numbers are grim. As Mayor Phil Goff noted:
“If murders in Auckland had increased by 78% over the last four years, at 3x the rate of the rest of the country, and [this many] people had lost their lives, the city would be outraged and demanding action.”
And AT knows it needs to up its game. The good news: along with Council, AT is committed to lowering deaths and serious injuries from traffic, with a Vision Zero approach that will prioritise safety as the absolute bottom line – because people shouldn’t pay for mistakes with their lives. Safer speeds will be one of the first responses, with a focus on town centres.
This is why the Glen Eden town centre project is drawing attention: this is the first local safety project to explicitly reflect AT’s new Vision Zero direction, and one of the first to comprehensively lower speeds in a whole town centre area.
Glen Eden is sandwiched in between Titirangi, Kelston and Henderson in West Auckland, just over the northern end of the foothills that separate New Lynn and Green Bay from Titirangi. About 7,000 people live in Glen Eden East (which straddles the town centre), with another 10,000 in the wider suburb, in Parrs Park, Kaurilands and other neighbourhoods.
The local business association dubs the neighbourhood ‘The Gateway to the Waitakeres’ – and, with regional parks and green spaces to the west, a handy town centre and easy rail access, Glen Eden has a lot going for it, although of course there’s always room for improvement.
The town centre grew up around the train station, which was established to serve Waikumete Cemetery. Today that station sees 1,000 boardings every weekday (up almost 70 percent on five years ago!). The very busy West Coast Road, a classic Auckland ‘urban arterial’, runs almost parallel to the train line. And, with a major new housing development going up (165 new residences) and a growing population in the area generally, this confluence of traffic and people and community is becoming a challenge.
In the last couple of decades, partly in response to the way traffic flow has degraded street life, a lot of local retail and community activity has moved away from West Coast Road, gravitating instead towards Glenmall, tucked away behind the main road. One of Auckland’s earliest shopping malls, with shops arranged around a large parking area in the middle, Glenmall is very busy on weekends, but also very oriented towards shopping by car. Pedestrians feel obliged to scurry across the raised pedestrian tables so as not to hold up traffic coming in or out. While a centre of activity, it’s not really what you’d call a town centre.
The safety challenges
Glen Eden is some distance from easy motorway access (the nearest links to SH16 are at Te Atatu and Rosebank Road), so West Coast Road carries a lot of traffic through the heart of the town centre: 22,000 vehicles a day on average; around 2,000 an hour in the evening peak.
And, West Coast Road has been built and optimised to funnel all those cars through Glen Eden. The result is a river of traffic that divides the village shops on one side from the train station on the other, and numerous schools just beyond (including Kelston Boys and its neighbors on St Leonard’s Road.)
Traffic moves fast when it gets a chance: one speed camera just to the west of Glen Eden’s town centre clocked over 19,000 tickets in the year to last June – yielding a handy $1.29 million in fines, but that’s no consolation for anyone (or their pets) who’s gotten in the way of those vehicles. And the problem of unsafe driving increases outside of peak hours – those wide roads yell ‘speed up’ all the louder when there’s hardly anyone else driving on them, making the quiet hours awfully noisy as well as dangerous.
All this traffic makes the town centre a stressful place to get around and through if you’re not in a car. Crossings are scarce and often faded and narrow, making it particularly tough to get around if you have any kind of mobility issues or travel with small children in tow, as pointed out by local residents in a local board survey last year
Worse: it’s dangerous – for everybody. According to AT’s figures, the stretch of West Coast Road through the town centre recorded 24 injury crashes in the last five years, with four involving pedestrians, three involving serious injury, and one being fatal. To state the obvious, Glen Eden can’t be allowed to go on like this. Fortunately, AT and Council think so too.
AT’s improvement plan
Firstly, AT proposes making Glen Eden town centre a 30km/h speed zone. This is the biggest single change in line with Vision Zero. The speed limit will be given some teeth with raised tables at intersections, to remind drivers that they’re moving through a community, not a vehicle hyperloop. Several of the intersections will also get substantial kerb buildouts. And the hair-raising junction of West Coast and Glenview Roads, by the rail station, will lose a slip lane.
Two new pedestrian crossings will go in near the train station and the local supermarket, fixing areas where there’s currently a long wait for people to cross (and correspondingly, a lot of high-risk desire-line walking, as pedestrians give up on waiting and cross when they spot a gap).
A dangerous side road becomes one-way: Captain Scott Road, which is currently scary to cross thanks to turning traffic from three directions, will become a one-way lane leading off West Coast Road only.
A short stretch of parking vanishes to be replaced by a planted berm which will bring a welcome bit of living green. This is the very narrow and frankly dicey on-street parking along West Coast Road outside the supermarket – a prime area for westbound cyclists to get doored, or for drivers to get their wing mirrors shaved by close-passing traffic.
You can see the plans in full online here – and the indicative images below:
What we think
While the project may have had its beginnings before Vision Zero fully arrived on the Auckland scene, AT’s heart is in the right place on this. The language in the consultation documents sent to residents is extremely clear and strong by AT standards – emotive, even:
Urban arterial roads and intersections are areas where severe crashes are common, and pedestrians are particularly at risk. Individuals, families and communities have been devastated by crashes, and we will not tolerate this continued loss of life and injury on Auckland roads.
And, although this is billed purely as a pedestrian safety project, the changes will also benefit those of us on bikes who end up riding these roads despite their current limitations. Physics guarantees that a slowdown to 30km/h will prevent some serious injuries and deaths over the next years and decades here.
Yes, it’s true that traffic through the town centre often travels slower than 50km/h already, thanks to on-street parking and people hopping in and out of vehicles. However: as we mentioned already – roads designed for maximum throughput at peak times are even more dangerous off-peak, when drivers have clear space to step on the gas. Anyone who regularly rides a bike through Glen Eden will agree. So anything that ensures a permanent, lasting reduction in speeds isn’t to be sniffed at. (And indications from AT are that the 24/7 slowdown will have minimal impact on overall travel times for most people anyway.)
So… what’s in it for people on bikes, specifically?
Apart from the safer speeds – which are important and good – not a lot right now.
We agree, this looks odd and disappointing in the new Vision Zero context, and given Auckland Transport’s overall directive to lift the number of people on bikes. Glen Eden is not currently an AT priority investment area for cycling – but nevertheless, people do bike here, and they surely deserve to be considered in street design, especially when safety is the goal.
And, in the specific context of a town centre with a train station at the heart of it, it’s a real missed opportunity – bike park-and-ride is the most efficient park-and-ride, as well as one of the healthiest.
Plus, there are pockets of real promise in Glen Eden for bikes: not just the train station for easy multi-modal transport to Henderson or the central city, but also a sunny square outside the library with good-quality (albeit often underused) bike parking, and several schools within a few kilometres’ easy riding for students, teachers and caregivers.
What’s needed is a much friendlier street environment on the wider scale, to help link these pockets up and create the beginnings of bike-friendliness and walkability on a local scale. If it works here, it’ll work in plenty of other small suburban centres around Auckland, and create a baseline for bigger changes later.
Three reasons to support this project anyhow – and ask for bike-friendly fixes!
- A wholesale town centre upgrade is likely several years down the track, with no gains at all for bikes or pedestrians in the meantime. We think this project is worth supporting now – with the changes we suggest below.
- The current upgrade is expected to happen fast by Auckland standards: construction should be kicking off in March, with the work completed by this time next year.
- There’s already some local opposition to even these traffic calming and pedestrian safety upgrades, which means your voice is still needed to support these improvements – whether you’re happy for them to go ahead as proposed, or want to encourage AT to lift its aim higher.
We’ve assembled feedback suggestions below, starting with the must-do elements for fixing Glen Eden’s town centre in 2019; then a couple of bike-specific safety measures we think AT can fold into this project; and then some more ambitious stuff for the future.
However strongly you want to pitch your feedback, make sure you get it to AT by post or online by Sunday 9 September.
A FEEDBACK GUIDE
1. The basic stuff
Here’s what Bike Auckland would definitely want to see in the Glen Eden upgrades. We suggest you make this your baseline, because it’s still more than enough to make Glen Eden a much safer place for everyone.
- Yes to thirty! The 30 km/h change is critical, and something we’ve been calling on AT to implement for a long time. Survivable speeds, 24/7.
- Raise the tables. The planned speed tables need oomph to ensure the speed limit. A 1:10 gradient will oblige traffic to slow down, and discourage quick dashes through orange and red lights. Nothing says ‘go slower next time’ like the sound of springs bottoming out.
- Add the missing pedestrian crossing legs to the Glendale / West Coast Road and Bowers Road / West Coast Road intersections. In a town centre, pedestrians should not get the run-around!
- Don’t forget Oates / Glendale intersection. One of the nastiest spots for bikes and pedestrians in Glen Eden has been somehow left out of the safety upgrade. The intersection of Oates and Glendale Roads (beside the local library, theatre and RSA) needs a raised table in line with the other upgrades – and a bike bypass for an island that currently forces cyclists to jag out into uphill traffic. A safer solution needs to be found for people crossing Oates Road at this point, too.
- Better approaches on Glenview Road. There’s a bit more room to play with at the Glenview / West Coast Road intersection than anywhere else, and it’s getting more changes than most other areas – so at a minimum, let’s put in Copenhagen-style bike approach lanes at this intersection, to get riders safely past the worst of the traffic.
- Take the roundabout upgrade next-level. The improved roundabout at Oates and Captain Scott really needs raised tables, not speed cushions, to make sure vehicles enter AND exit at safe speeds (the proposed cushions only slow vehicles on entry). AT could also designate the surrounding pavements as shared paths, so young or less confident cyclists have an alternative to braving the roundabout on-road.
2. The next level
Here are a couple of ideas we think it’s worth AT investigating, to get more value out of this project by improving safety specifically for people on bikes with relatively little hassle or added cost:
- A bit of bikepath on West Coast Road. There’s room on the northern side of West Coast Road for an initial stretch of eastbound (or maybe even two-way) bike path, between Glendale and Glenview Roads. This would give riders from the west a breather when approaching the train station. Match it with a ‘toucan’ (bikes and peds) crossing over Glenview Road, and some extra bike parking (with CCTV) by the station carpark.
- A longer, safer Glenview to reach the local school. If we’re going to knock Glenview Road down to 30km/h as far as Glen Eden Intermediate, why not consider a stretch of protected path on the northern side to match, on the inside of the (seldom used) on-street parking? We’d like to see this extend at least as far as the school, with an option to extend right down to Great North Road, within a short ride of the Whau Local Board’s proposed greenways on the other side.
3. The gold standard
Taking it up one more notch, here’s the transformational stuff that we would be thrilled to see now, and long-term expect to see here and elsewhere in Auckland as a meaningful Vision Zero approach (but not if it means this project gets delayed several years):
- The most for West Coast: protected bike lanes along West Coast Road, all the way through the town centre. The northern side of the road has minimal on-street parking and would offer maximum protection for riders heading slowly uphill towards Kelston. The southern side has all the shops and all the action – but lanes here would mean either removing all parking, or…
- Taking a lane for quality bikeways. If we want to really push the boat out for Glen Eden, removing a traffic lane on West Coast Road would be the way to go, and allow room for high-standard protected bike facilities. For now, that’s likely to be a fight on a whole other level than the changes proposed right now – and a hard ask in terms of the available funding across Auckland. But eyes on the prize: we can at least set the bar for the change we want to see.
Consultation closes on Sunday, 9 September.
The bigger picture
Yes, this current design is basic. But it’s a start, and it will save lives. And by making walking more attractive – to the shops, to the buses, to the trains – it will help to get more people (rather than cars) into and through Glen Eden.
So pushing for the proposed changes – plus some of our crucial suggestions above – will benefit everyone in Glen Eden, while also building the case for more of this, sooner, here and everywhere.
Further out on the horizon, the long-awaited Te Whau Pathway to the north – and the Avondale-New Lynn pathway to the east – are set to bring a few green tendrils of bikeability a bit closer to Glen Eden. You can count on us to be staunchly behind those projects being built as soon as possible, too.
Keep an eye out for more projects and upgrades that need your support via Auckland Transport’s cycling project homepage, and right here at Bike Auckland.